Tuesday night snippets – the news edition

There’s a couple of stories floating around the web that I’ll tie together here rather than dedicate to individual posts.
DI.se on Mark Bishop’s trail
There was a big article in Sweden’s Dagens Industri newspaper in the last couple of days. They were trying to track down The Koenigsegg Group’s mysterious shareholder, Mark Bishop, but seemingly without success.
They even went to the trouble of sending some reporters to California, but they were met with closed doors.
If there was anything worthwhile in the report that we didn’t already know, perhaps one of you Swedes could share some dot points with us? The report is not online as yet.

Leases back in town for UK market.
Some good news for British Saabers and dealers alike.
Lease providers in the UK, who had previously suspended writing up Saab leases due to uncertainty surrounding the company, have started doing business with Saab again.

Now an agreement has been reached between General Motors and the Swedish sports car maker, Koenigsegg, which should see Koenigsegg take control Saab within weeks.
As a result, lease companies here are revising their Saab policies again.
“We are writing business on Saab,” confirmed Mark Sinclair managing director of multi-marque provider, Alphabet.
“We have reconsidered our stance recently and have improved our rates accordingly.”

It’s nice to see a little bit of confidence, eh?
Not all lease providers have jumped on the bandwagon, with some still waiting to see what happens. Here’s hoping for some [K]-egg on their faces soon 🙂
Thanks to Karen, in comments!

One of the reasons I’m getting back into Twitter, is to catch all the things that don’t make the headlines on various websites. I’ll be using it the same way.
Like tonight, where the Saab Newsroom posted a link to a new-old Saab 95 video from 1961 they’ve uploaded to Youtube.
Other Saabers you can follow include Joe Oliver from Saab’s PR division and Peter Backstrom from the Saab Museum.

Opel no diamond
News continues to circulate about the Opel deal being far from over.

General Motors has stepped up negotiations with rival suitors to offload a stake in Opel/Vauxhall, its European carmaking business, and could sign at least one memorandum of understanding this week as talks with Magna International, preferred bidder, have hit obstacles.

Fiat’s offer is still on the table and both RHJ and BAIC are said to be considering raised offers very soon.
It’s worth bearing in mind that whilst we’re all very hopeful, the deal with Koenigsegg isn’t done yet, either.
They’re in the midst of their due diligence inspections right now, but that’s not open ended and one would guess there’ll have to be some hardcore negotiations and signatures sooner rather than later.

Money for pleasure
Via Jalopnik, a rare example of the undisputed #1 sex-on-wheels exclusomobile is for sale on Craigslist.
There’s no nudity in that ad but it could still be considered NSFW just because of the car.

Is the Swedish government off it’s tree?

UPDATE below
This is related to the earlier story of Saab’s desire for operational finance to carry it through until it’s ownership situation is settled and it’s EIB loan application can be seen.
TTELA are now covering the story, too, and their translation seems to be much more readable. I’m no longer occupied with site admin stuff, so I can also give some more thought to things.
The situation seems to be as follows:

  • Saab had several buyers lined up, all three of the primary ones were credible buyers of varying financial strength. Conclusion – Saab will be sold and the government is probably 90% assured of not being left holding the baby.
  • Saab have sufficient orders to increase production and possibly thereby increase employment, but this will incur immediate costs, which they don’t think they’ve got the funds to cover (revenue from that activity won’t be seen for a while).
  • It seems Saab can’t apply for their EIB loan until September 22, unless they can grease the wheels somehow.
  • Their only option at the moment is to seek a loan from the Swedish government, who have allocated funds to help car companies, who haven’t paid a single ore (pls forgive my lack of dots) from this allocation but who also say they won’t lend it because the emergency car company funding isn’t actually for car company emergencies. Or something like that.
  • The government, instead of stepping in and helping whilst Saab is in this short transition limbo period, they want Saab’s new owners to step in, despite the fact that THEY DON’T EVEN OWN THEM YET!!!!!!!

It may be that I’m making Saab mad once again by taking a stance on this, but from the outside looking in, it seems the only good thing the Swedish government has done for Saab thus far is refrain from killing the company completely.
It seems every time Saab goes to shake the metaphorical hand of the government, they’re wearing one of those electric shock gags in the palm of their hands.

Swedes, I know you’re going to give me a belting for this one for not knowing the internal comings and goings of the government and industry there, so fire away.
But it just seems like the government are doing every small thing that the law requires them to do, and absolutely nothing else.
A report from Reuters seems to clarify the issue a fair bit.
The funding that Saab is seeking in the form of a bridge loan is something they need purely to increase production to meet demand.
They still have enough money to get through reconstruction, albeit at a low rate of production. If they got the bridging finance from the state, they could increase production, meet anticipated higher demand, and re-employ some of their workforce that was previously laid off.
So I guess those former employees who are needlessly unemployed at the moment can send a thankyou card to Stockholm.

Funding issues still haunting Saab?

I covered an article at GP.se earlier this month, where they reported that Saab might run into money problems if they have to wait until September to secure their EIB loans.
There were several other reports to contradict this, but the story still lingers.
Today, GP.se are covering it again, though now with quotes from Saab’s head honcho, Jan-Ake Jonsson:

Saab needs new money in the summer to go up in production. It says CEO Jan-Ă…ke Jonsson to GP from Almedalen.
Under the heading “What is the future for the Swedish car industry”, the Saab’s CEO Jan-Ă…ke Jonsson and Industry Minister Maud Olofsson State Jöran Hägglund to discuss on a plank of Almedalen today.
But really, they have much more drastic – and [important?] question – discussions to bring in a concrete plan.
It is about Saab’s very near future.
– We would have to go up in output relative to the orders we have,” says Jan-Ă…ke Jonsson when GP meet him in Almedalen.
But there is no money to do it.
Therefore Saab is trying, by all means, to accelerate the loan process for loans from the European Investment Bank, EIB.
But Saab is also negotiating so-called överbryggnadslån, or emergency loans, directly with the Swedish state.
– We have discussed it, but not received a hearing so far, says Jan-Ă…ke Jonsson.
Saab, together with the new owners, for discussions with Riksgälden and EIB to try to speed up the process to obtain clearance from the EIB loan earlier than September 22. It is the date mentioned as the earliest EIB’s board could decide on the loan.
– The EIB has a board meeting in July We are working with the EIB to see if we can not move the decision until July,” said Jonsson. We have not excluded it.
– ….it allows us to adapt our operations so that the money is enough.

Now, we should bear in mind that earlier reports told us that JAJ and Saab’s administrator, Guy Lofalk, both stated that Saab had enough money to get them through to new ownership.
It may be that increased orders mean increased costs without revenue flowing through in time to cover those increased costs. A basic cashflow problem.
It should also be remembered that Saab can’t use EIB money to cover production costs. This money is earmarked for investment in new technology.

Thanks to Per and Magnus!

Saabs United – finding good homes for Turbo X’s everywhere….

The quest to house any remaining Turbo X’s continues and today I’ve received an email from another new Turbo X owner.
His name is BrianL and he writes as follows:

I thought I’d drop you a line before these pop up on your Flickr feed. I finally got some decent photos of my new toy. A barely broken in Turbo X SC! I’ve added about 2000 miles to it and it has been awesome. I was a bit hesitant about buying the same car again, but this car is a totally different car than my 04 SS.
I was encouraged by your post on left over Turbo Xs and saw this one needing a new home. It’s fully loaded except auto and nav.

IMHO, all you’re missing is the nav, Brian. But that’s just me.
I’ve passed along my congratulations privately but wanted to do so publicly as well. These are awesome cars going for rediculous prices, and they deserve good homes.
The best car I’ve ever owned is the Saab 9-3 Viggen and the Turbo X is this generation of vehicle’s Viggen – and then some. It’ll be one of those cars that every enthusiast will wish they’d owned at one stage.
If you can find one, snap one up.

Former SaabUSA chief Joel Manby on GM/Saab culture

Joel Manby was one of the 8 guys who kicked off Saturn back in the 1980s, with a finely honed focus on the customer being more important than everything else – even the cars they were selling.
In the mid-late 1990s, he was slotted in as the head of SaabUSA, staying there for four years. He’s now working as the CEO of a company dealing with entertainment parks called Herschend Family Entertainment.
Manby did an interview recently with Georgia Public Broadcasting. The interview was mainly concerned with his current role at Herschend, but in discussing the corporate culture there, he also touched on his past experiences at GM in general, and Saturn and Saab in particular.
The full interview is available in PDF form here or you can watch it on video here.
I’ve reproduced the Saab and GM bits below:

“…what I saw at General Motors which was not very good. It was chaos. It wasn’t very well led. And at General Motors it was only about the bottom line. It was only about money and, you know, at the end of the day, I don’t think great people are really attracted to that…”
“…when I was in the GM culture, a lot of the discussion was about cutting costs and labor issues, union issues, and not enough about what’s going on with that customer.”
“…with Saab, we had a fantastic car, but we had no marketing strategy and no dealer network.”
“On Saab, the biggest thing I learned is how difficult it is to change a culture that is not customer focused and in Saab’s case, it was an engineering driven company. When you’d be in the meetings, it’d be all about having the absolute, best car, which actually, you can go too far, because you can put things into the car that customers aren’t willing to pay for. The engineers want it, but you’re not willing to pay for it as a customer,and that’s what I walked away with [from] Saab. You’ve got to only put in things that the customer is willing to reward you for…”
“At Saturn and Saab I saw a lot of mistakes there where, frankly, it became poor leadership. It really comes down to strong leadership and at Herschend, the owners just permeate the values.”

This guy is incredibly customer-focused and running a car company has to be about the product first and foremost, but some care and attention on the customer side is going to be crucial as Saab emerge from GM’s shadow.
Under Koenigsegg, Saab will have a chance to rebuild their identity under the flag of an exotic and very Swedish ownership identity. The customer experience will hopefully be developed to reflect this.
This has been an interesting insight from a guy was, at one time, right there at the coal face.
My thanks to Alan H for the tip and quotes!

Jalopnik review Cadillac SRX

You know I don’t really care either way about the success or otherwise of the Cadillac SRX or Cadillac in general. Send them all here as far as I’m concerned….
This particular Cadillac – the new SRX – has a sister vehicle that will be very important for Saab’s future, so when I saw this review at Jalopnik on my feed reader this morning, I thought I’d take a proper look.
The most important thing to read in this review is the summary sentence on quality.

The SRX greets you not with the new car smell of off-gassing plastics, but instead smells more like an old Jaguar with a nose full of leather and wood, a subtle reminder that this car is part of a return to proper Cadillacs, a return to that whole “standard of the world” business that Cadillac hasn’t been able to claim in at least three decades.
The interior fit and finish in the SRX is seriously luxurious, using GM’s “cut and sew” hand-stitched leather throughout.

Fit and finish are said to be ‘luxurious’ and in the absence of any complaints, I’d take that as a suggestion that the quality of workmanship in screwing this car together was satisfactory.
For those who are concerned about the Saab 9-4x being built in Mexico for quality reasons, this will hopefully give an initial small measure of comfort.
There’s a few other comments worth noting:

The difference between “Drive” and “Sport” is striking. The former is characterized by sluggish shifts, controlled-but-noticeable body roll, slightly over boosted power steering and a tendency towards understeer. Sport changes things completely with Crisp shifting, high revs, near-neutral handling thanks to the Haldex AWD system….

Saab were responsible for the adaptation of the XWD system into all of GM’s FWD vehicle platforms. So kudos to Saab for a job well done on this vehicle for GM.

Standard equipment for the SRX includes the 3.0-liter, 260 HP V6 in our tester with a 300 HP turbo V6 coming soon.

Again, that turbo engine will basically be the HF V6 that’s currently in the 9-3, tuned a little higher. And again, turbocharging was Saab’s baby in the GM fold.
It’s a review that’s worth a lookover if you want a very generalised idea of the quality that should be present in the Saab 9-4x when it arrives. The vehicles were developed somewhat independently, but there’s a commonality there that can’t be denied, so a glimpse at one should provide some insight into the other.

Press release on True Electric

I don’t want to get too hooked up with this company, because there may not be any substantive link with Saab in the future.
The display car is a Saab 9-3 convertible, and they have received development help from Innovatum in Trollhattan, who also do work on projects with Saab. But whether Saab can/will take this any further in terms of production model development remains to be seen.
Regardless, it’s an interesting development in electric propulsion and a lot of it’s taken place right in Saab’s backyard, so here’s the Googletrans of a press release that came out on the eve of the car’s debut at Almedalen Week 2009:
Swedish company behind the next-generation electric cars.
2009-06-25 14:13
The Swedish company Electro Engine in Sweden AB has developed a new system that enables high-performance electric of conventional cars today is powered by internal combustion. Demonstration vehicles shown to the public during Almedal Week. The launch will take place June 29 kl. 09.00 in Visby harbor.
The system, known as True ElectricTM, can be used directly in the manufacture of new machine cars. It can also be used to convert second-hand cars to pure electric cars. This can be done without any reduction in car safety and performance. Moreover, the system has the potential to be far more cost effective than the system used for electric traction in the market today. A key component is a revolutionary and patent-pending systems for battery management.
Electro Engines CEO, Thomas Bergensfjord, notes, “many want to continue running stylish, practical and safe cars with good performance while they are keen to choose a cleaner and more cost-effective alternative. With True ElectricTM can now combine electric cars environmental friendliness and low running costs with the existing cars function and performance. For example, we may have a SAAB 9-3 to accelerate from 0 to 100 km / h in 6.5 seconds, reaching a speed of 180 km/h and run 15-20 mil (which I think is 150-200 miles or kilometers – SW) of clean electricity without we changed the car exterior or interiört – with both the trunk and pull the hook to go. ”
According to Christer Asplund, project manager at the Power Circle, electricity industry association, this is a world news which may have a significant impact in bilvärlden. “We can really tell an important step in a technology. Moreover, it is a novelty which I believe is awaited the car makers. There has been much talk and long, not least in the sites and forums online, the need for a really good electric cars. A car that combines the advantages of large, safe cars with good performance and electric all the benefits, both in terms of environmental benefits and lower operating costs. The first vehicle shown is a SAAB is especially gratifying. “adds Christer Asplund.
“It is a unique concept as Electro Engine have produced. Cooperation with the vehicle manufacturers have already begun, both for cars and other vehicles. The American tradition of innovation and engineering, today’s launch is something to be proud of, both at home and internationally”,
Tore Helmersson, president of Innovatum AB, a development of Swedish industry and based in Trollhättan, has committed to deep to support the Electro Engine. Innovatum operates a number of future projects aimed at reducing dependence on fossil fuels. “Electric cars will eventually be an important part in the Swedish vehicle production. With Electro Engine illustrated that American innovators force can pave the way for a technology”, summarizes Tore Helmersson.
True ElectricTM is a modular and future-proof system for electric propulsion based on patent-pending innovations in particular battery management, power electronics and advanced synkronmotorer. The system then adapted to each vehicle type and model.
And here’s another photos, from Allt om Motor, where there’s another story:

This is a unique concept that Electroengine has developed. Cooperation with manufacturers has started, both for cars and other types of veichles. For Swedish tradition of invention and engineering the launch today is something to be proud of, both here in Sweden and internationally”

Thanks to Per and Carl-Henrik!

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